This month sees a rare appearance from Joanna Newsom as part of the 12th Festival Mil·lenni.
It’s only her second Barcelona gig and her first since showcasing 2007 album Ys. Returning to the city to Palau de la Música, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter will be playing old favourites along with songs from her new album Have One On Me, a winding three-disc odyssey already hailed as a masterpiece.
Best known as a harpist, California-born Newsom started out learning piano and got her first harp at the tender age of seven. They quickly became inseparable, with Newsom often describing her instrument as part of herself. After years of writing her own material and self-publishing her first two records, she found fame on the US indie-folk scene with 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender, a spellbinding blend of intricate, twisting rhythms and dreamily poetic lyrics.
The album gradually gathered accolades, leading to ‘Peach, Plum, Pear’ and best-known track ‘The Sprout and the Bean’ featuring on various TV shows and adverts. Follow-up, Ys—just five tracks long and inspired by Breton tales of the eponymous town swallowed up by the sea—was universally praised, becoming her first release to chart in the US and named by UK newspaper, The Guardian as one of the 1000 albums to hear before you die. TV appearances and a spot of modelling work, for Armani no less, have also nudged her profile towards the mainstream in recent years.
Newsom’s distinctive vocals have long been a talking point, described as everything from feminine and fragile to child-like and shrill. In any case, in 2009 she underwent surgery on the vocal nodules which had left her unable to speak, altering her voice forever and lending her a new, softer and quite possibly more commercial sound.
Whatever you think of Joanna’s unconventional style, this month’s gig is a one-off chance to see her perform in front of the most fitting of backdrops. Unique, intricate and beautiful just for the sheer hell of it, the Palau de la Música Catalana could almost have been inspired by Newsom’s magical, fairytale music and seems more of a homecoming than a début. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to see her here, the venue she was born to play.
Joanna Newsom - January 20th, 9pm - Palau de la Música